Australia and the Second World War | The Anzac Portal
Great Britain also dominated world trade, with ownership of at least 45 and attacks by German warships, airships and aircraft took place from them British-born) from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. U.S.–Australia Relations: Background and Recent Developments. .. select countries, Australians ranked Great Britain first with a rating of 77 forward for enhanced aircraft cooperation” and “the potential for .. forged when the two nations fought together on the Western Front in World War I. There U.S. A few Australians flew in the Battle of Britain in August and September, but the the 2/9th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, at Gili-Gili airfield.
London was the centre of a global financial system that had developed in complexity in the decades before the war.
Politically, the British considered their country to be a democracy, and it was called one by its enemies. As a constitutional monarchy under George V, King of Great Britainit had a largely unwritten constitution made up of precedents and compromises, the most recent only in Effective political power resided in the House of Commons, which was directly elected; approximately 60 percent of men although no women had the vote, and by convention the leader of the majority party in the Commons formed a government as prime minister, heading the Cabinet, the main executive body; in the prime minister was Herbert Henry Asquith of the Liberal Party.
The House of Lords, an unelected second chamber, was dominated by the opposition party, the Unionists or Conservativeswho still largely represented a traditional aristocracy and upper class.
Political power and representation for the lower classes came increasingly from organised labour and trade unionsrepresented in Parliament by a small but growing Labour Party. A pattern of serious and sometimes violent political disputes just before the war suggested a politically divided country, with the underprivileged asserting their demands for recognition. But increasingly the legitimacy of these demands was being recognised, and the war accelerated this process.
Despite these disputes, socially and culturally Great Britain was more homogeneous than any other major power, and better placed to withstand the strains of the war. English was almost universal as a sole or first language, as was literacy, although ports and industrial cities had pockets of diversity. Christianity was almost universal, and most people professed some religious belief without necessarily being regular churchgoers.
This included the Church of England and Church of Scotland as state churches, a much smaller but growing Roman Catholic population, and numerous forms of non-conformism. Discrimination against other religions was mild in comparison with mainland Europe, notably as regards Judaism.
Religious convictions were seldom overtly political, although religious beliefs did influence politics, including strains of nonconformist pacifism in much of the British labour movement and British forms of socialism. This homogeneity was strengthened rather than weakened by a marked parochialism and regionalism, of which the Scots and Welsh identities were only the most prominent, with most people looking to their local rather than national leaders, including local business, religious, and trade union representatives.
The most marked differentiations were of social class. Of a workforce of just over Great Britain had no recent experience of peacetime military conscription, and had to create and equip a mass army of millions during the course of the war, with consequent significant social and economic dislocation, and cultural impact. In geo-strategic terms, the United Kingdom formed an kilometre-long breakwater lying across the sea communications of northwestern Europe, giving the Allies another critical advantage, particularly in the distant naval blockade of Germany that was one of their main weapons.
Bythe British had decisively won a peacetime naval arms race with Germany prompted by a battleship-building programme, with twenty-two battleships in service and thirteen under construction, plus a strength in depth of about warships of various kinds, and an advantage over Germany of almost 2: Although British naval power was strained and challenged throughout the war, it never experienced a critical shortage.
In contrast, the British army before was tiny in comparison with other powers, with aboutmen serving. Since the later 19th century the army had been structured primarily to provide garrisons for the British Empire rather than to fight a European war. An all-volunteer force, the British army had little connection with British society, with officers being drawn mostly from a small section of the upper class, while the working-class regarded military service as a last resort or a disgrace.
Australian Flying Corps
Attempts since to create a volunteer reserve for home defence known as the Territorial Force an exact translation of the German Landwehr achieved little success, and even including the Territorials at full mobilisation the British army was on paper barelymen. This reflected a general attitude among the population as supportive of the British Empire and defensively patriotic, but not militaristic. Much the same attitude prevailed in many parts of the Empire.
In the First World War the British were able to draw substantially on soldiers many of them British-born from CanadaAustraliaNew Zealand and South Africa in particular, and on their Indian army, an all-volunteer force with British officers recruited chiefly from the northern part of India. The shock of this attack swung doubters in the British Cabinet, in Parliament, and as far as can be judged in the wider country, in favour of war. There are significant problems of evidence and methodology in evaluating British working-class attitudes towards the war.
It seems fair to say that for most British people the war was about the German occupation of Belgiumand all that it represented. The British people saw this as a defensive war, despite the fact that Great Britain had not itself been attacked: Germany was considered to be by far the principal enemy, and the British public saw the war as won when German forces were ejected from France and Belgium in August-November As part of the British declaration of war, Prime Minister Asquith assembled a small inner War Council, which developed by the end of into a War Cabinet.
In AugustGreat Britain immediately imposed trade sanctions and a naval blockade on the Central Powers, although the effectiveness of this blockade, and the extent to which it contributed to crippling their domestic economies, is a matter of considerable historical dispute.
After some debate, the British Expeditionary Force or BEF as it came to be known was also sent to fight alongside the French army, rather than being used as the basis for training a larger army. The London Stock Exchange also stayed closed until January By then, British sea power had cleared the oceans of German warships, largely confining the conflict to Europe and its surrounding waters.
The British government did not expect a short war, and felt that the country had survived the possibility of an early defeat. The post of Secretary of State for War political head of the army was vacant at the start of the war, and Asquith appointed Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, a famous and respected military hero who was also a member of the House of Lords.
Kitchener was notoriously taciturn and secretive, and he made little or no distinction between his political appointment and military rank. His domination of his cabinet colleagues for the first months of the war marked the start of important questions about political-military relationships in a democracy at war.
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It is speculated that he hoped that the French and Russians could hold out against the Germans until this army was properly trained and equipped so that he could use it as the instrument of a British-led victory, probably not before Instead, the circumstances of the war led to the new British army being used piecemeal from onwards, while still undertrained and underequipped.
The number of volunteers peaked in the first week of September withcoming forward, probably in response to news of the first BEF defeats at the Battles of Mons and Le Cateau. While each individual had his own reasons for volunteering, the great majority appear to have volunteered as a grimly reasoned response to their country being in danger of defeat, rather than any light-hearted war enthusiasm; economic as well as patriotic factors and a sense of duty also played a role.
Overt propaganda had little part at first in British military volunteerism. Over the next two years, the British army expanded more than tenfold from the original six infantry divisions and one cavalry division of the BEF to over sixty fully equipped infantry divisions and their supporting troops.
The Regular, Territorial and Kitchener formations retained a distinctiveness reflecting their origins at least up to the end of Just over 1 million men volunteered by the end ofpart of a total of just under 2. In round figures, 5. Almost from the start, this army also had a British Empire component, including Indian army troops from onwards, Canadian troops from earlyand Australians, South Africans, New Zealanders and Newfoundlanders by But despite the centrality of the Western Front to the British experience and memory of the war, many British army and British Empire soldiers served in other theatres of war, including about 3 million who served in the war against the Ottoman Empireover 1 million of them British rather than from the Empire.
At any time after there were also about 1 million British troops in Great Britain itself, including those in training, as well as numerous garrisons for India and the Empire around the world. While this mass army, which was unprecedented in British experience, was being recruited, trained and equipped, the British relied on sea power and blockade although in strict legal terms a formal blockade was not declared.
Great Britain financed its war effort at first chiefly by borrowing on the international markets, particularly from the United Statesusing the funds as loans to its Empire and Allies, or to purchase military equipment, also chiefly from the United States.Australia vs United States (USA) - Who Would Win? Military Comparison
This included large subsidies to Russiaand to Italy which entered the war on the Allied side in May The extent of this borrowing tied the United States into financial support of an Allied victory long before its entry into the war in Aprilaugmenting British diplomacy and a well-organised British propaganda campaign aimed mostly at American elite public opinion.
The British also relied on diplomacy to isolate their enemies, to win sympathy in other neutral countries, and to encourage others to enter the war on their side.
Australian Involvement In The First World War
The big difference from all previous wars that the British had fought using the same strategy was the immense financial cost and dislocation the longer the war lasted, coupled with its exceptionally heavy casualties as the product of mass industrialised warfare and trench deadlock. While their own soldiers were being trained and rushed into battle, the British relied for land power chiefly on the forces of France and Russia.
The entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war on the side of the Central Powers in late October severed British strategic communications with Russia through the Black Sea, and potentially threatened both the Suez Canal and India. The British along with all other great powers on both sides wrongly assumed that the Ottoman army would collapse with the first attacks, and that the chief problems would be the political ones of how to partition the Ottoman Empire between the victorious Allies.
As well as defending the Suez Canal and mounting an offensive into Mesopotamiachiefly with Indian army troops, the British made an innovative use of sea power, the brainchild of Winston Spencer ChurchillFirst Lord of the Admiralty political head of the Royal Navyto force the Dardanelles with warships in February and reach Constantinople. When this failed, a British-led force of British Empire and French troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in April in the hope of clearing the Dardanelles.
This landing was expected to prompt naval and military support from Russia, and bring the Balkan countries into the war on the Allied side, but in this, British diplomacy failed. After an additional landing in August had also failed to achieve victory, the British evacuated Gallipoli in January The British attempt to win a cheap success in Mesopotamia also ended in failure in Aprilwith the surrender of British Empire forces at Kut-el-Amara.
The year had been disastrous for the British; they did not win a single decisive battle on land or sea, and mostly suffered heavy defeats. This was a reflection of British political and military ambitions and weaknesses at the start of the war. They had tried to mount two substantial land campaigns, one on the Western Front in support of much larger French attacks, and one against the Ottoman Empire, without the trained troops or resources to do either properly.
At the same time the Royal Navy was under pressure from the first of two German unrestricted submarine warfare campaigns, in February to Septemberand British industry was not yet geared up for the war.
Together with the continuing failure at Gallipoli, increasing dissatisfaction with Kitchener among his colleagues, and a sense that the war effort lacked political direction, this provoked a change of government. On 25 May, Asquith formed a coalition government with the Unionists, including senior Unionists in his Cabinet.
After the failure at Gallipoli the British largely went onto the defensive against the Ottoman Empire until On the Western Front the key to overcoming the defensive deadlock was artillery firepower and shells on a previously unimagined scale, augmented by technological innovations, such as the development of air warfare almost from nothing in the course of the war; the invention and first use of tanks in September ; increases in infantry firepower; and the training to employ all these innovations in a unified manner.
Australia–United Kingdom relations
By the British army on the Western Front had nearly 6, artillery pieces of all calibres: They represented the mobilisation of the British home front for war on a massive scale. The creation of the Ministry of Munitions under Lloyd George greatly increased government involvement in British industry, including securing the co-operation of the trades unions and imposing controls on businesses, but in practice the bulk of the orders for arms and equipment had already been placed before the end of This government intrusion into business also meant virtually full employment, but was contrary to pre-war Liberal political ideology.
To pay for the war, the Asquith Coalition also supplemented its overseas borrowing with increased domestic taxation and war loans, which would increase in importance during the rest of the war. By the middle ofthe balance of manpower between the army and production on the home front became a serious problem, as volunteering began to decline. The introduction of conscription came from a complex mixture of political rivalries and arguments, the need to balance military needs with those of industry and the national economy, and a belief that greater government intervention and control was needed to win the war.
The government had believed that there was a pool of about 1 million suitable men who had failed to volunteer, but this turned out to be untrue.
While the overall hostile stalemate continued throughout andthe Australians and other allied armies repeatedly attacked, preceded by massive artillery bombardments intended to cut barbed wire and destroy enemy defences. After these bombardments, waves of attacking infantry emerged from the trenches into no man's land and advanced towards enemy positions. The surviving Germans, protected by deep and heavily reinforced bunkers, were usually able to repel the attackers with machine-gun fire and artillery support from the rear.
These attacks often resulted in limited territorial gains followed, in turn, by German counter-attacks. Both sides sustained heavy losses. In July Australian infantry were introduced to this type of combat at Fromelles, where they suffered 5, casualties in 24 hours. By the end of the year about 40, Australians had been killed or wounded on the Western Front. In a further 76, Australians became casualties in battles, such Bullecourt, Messines, and the four-month campaign around Ypres, known as the Battle of Passchendaele.
In March the German army launched its final offensive of the war, hoping for a decisive victory before the military and industrial strength of the United States could be fully mobilised in support of the allies. The Germans initially met with great success, advancing 64 kilometres past the region of the Somme battles, before the offensive lost momentum. Between April and November the stalemate of the preceding years began to give way, as the allies combined infantry, artillery, tanks, and aircraft more effectively, demonstrated in the Australian capture of Hamel spur on 4 July In early October the Australian divisions withdrew from the front for rest and refitting; they were preparing to return when Germany surrendered on 11 November.
Unlike their counterparts in France and Belgium, the Australians in the Middle East fought a mobile war against the Ottoman Empire in conditions completely different from the mud and stagnation of the Western Front.
The light horsemen and their mounts had to survive extreme heat, harsh terrain, and water shortages. Nevertheless, casualties were comparatively light, with 1, Australians killed or wounded in three years of war. This campaign began in with Australian troops participating in the defence of the Suez Canal and the allied reconquest of the Sinai peninsular.
In the following year Australian and other allied troops advanced into Palestine and captured Gaza and Jerusalem; by they had occupied Lebanon and Syria. On 30 October Turkey sued for peace. Australians also served at sea and in the newly formed flying corps. The First World War was the first armed conflict in which aircraft were used. About 3, Australian airmen served in the Middle East and France with the Australian Flying Corps, mainly in observation capacities or providing infantry support.
When flying over enemy lines he noticed his mate, Captain Rutherford, had been brought down with his plane and was about to be captured by the Turks. McNamara, himself wounded, landed and picked up Rutherford, only to overturn in a gully. Despite being weak from loss of blood, McNamara guided the plane back to base.
He was subsequently awarded with the Victoria Cross. Australian women volunteered for service in auxiliary roles, as cooks, nurses, drivers, interpreters, munitions workers, and skilled farm workers. While the government welcomed the service of nurses, it generally rejected offers from women in other professions to serve overseas. Australian nurses served in Egypt, France, Greece, and India, often in trying conditions or close to the front, where they were exposed to shelling and aerial bombardment.